Originally Published: September 11, 2018 7:24 p.m.
Research shows that a combined focus on medical management and intensive rehabilitation can dramatically improve function and quality of life in individuals living with Parkinson’s disease.
“One of the most important things to do while living with Parkinson’s disease is to stay active and engaged in some sort of therapy,” said Brian Shaw, OTR and Director of Therapy Operations at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital. “The biggest challenges faced by those living with Parkinson’s disease are movement, balance, speech, and depression. “Staying physically active when living with the disease may help to address these challenges.”
Shaw said the key is to do activities that challenge the heart and lungs.
“Choose exercises that continuously change tempo, activity, and direction so that your body can be constantly moving and shifting in different ways,” he said.
Some activities that offer this type of movement include: couples dancing, like the tango or the waltz; boxing classes; Tai chi; yoga; water aerobics; walking and hiking.
Shaw also stresses that medication compliance and timing also help with movement in Parkinson’s patients.
“At Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, we monitor medications closely so we can improve ‘on-times,’ where medications are working well. This makes it easier for Parkinson’s patients to move and function,” Shaw said. “By doing this, and by having patients aware of the most beneficial times to take their medications, mobility can be enhanced which leads to increased independence in performing everyday activities.”
The National Institutes of Health shows evidence to suggest that non-compliance with medications results in poor response to therapy and can even increase direct and indirect health care costs.
“It’s a two-pronged approach, and each part is important — movement and medication,” Shaw said. “By focusing on both together, individuals with Parkinson’s disease can expect to improve their movement, balance, and overall quality of life.”